For the fourth time in five seasons, Maine Central Institute is the top seed in its region entering the playoffs. From 2014 through 2016, the Huskies earned the top spot in the Class D Little Ten Conference. This season — its second in the Class C Big Eleven —MCI went 7-1 to earn the No. 1 seed.

MCI is a two-time defending state champ — it won the Class C crown last fall after winning the Class D title in 2016. The Huskies won their title last season as the region’s sixth seed, so they know that their top seed earned nothing but home field for the first two rounds. The Big Eleven will play its conference championship game Nov. 10 at Hampden Academy, a neutral site.

“Any of these teams we’re going to play are playoff contenders, championship contenders. We know we’ll have to ramp it up each week,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said after Friday’s 24-21 overtime win over rival Nokomis.

The Huskies open their title defense Friday against No. 8 Belfast (2-6). A win could mean a regional semifinals rematch against Nokomis. The four seed, Nokomis (4-4) hosts No. 5 Medomak Valley (4-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“If we win next week, we know we might see (Nokomis) again here,” Bertrand said.

MCI is trying to become the first team to reach five consecutive state championship games since Stearns achieved that feat from 1991 through 1995 in Class C.

• • •

It was hard to look at the bright side of things after losing to the top team in the Pine Tree Conference by one point. And don’t even mention the phrases “good loss” or “moral victory” to Mt. Blue head coach Nate Quirion.

“There’s no moral victories at Mt. Blue,” Quirion said.

But after a 29-28 loss on the road to Skowhegan last week, the Cougars may just be playing their best football at the right time.

For three quarters, the Mt. Blue defense was dominant against Skowhegan — which will enter the Class B North playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Mt. Blue racked up eight sacks and held Skowhegan quarterback Marcus Christopher to 166 passing yards on 28 attempts.

Mt. Blue (4-4) held a 21-7 lead over the Indians entering the fourth quarter, but Skowhegan made an improbable comeback, which along the way included recovering two squib kicks on kickoffs.

Quirion stated after the game that the mistakes on special teams were not on the players.

“The difference in not winning was coaching error,” Quirion said. “It wasn’t their error, it was our error as coaches. Mine in particular.”

The Cougars also gained some confidence playing on the road, a problem they’ve battled throughout the season. All four of Mt. Blue’s losses came on the road.

“What we wanted to get from our players was to play with confidence,” Quirion said. “We certainly did that here (Friday night). Their intensity and passion is what made the difference in being competitive.”

The Cougars will once again be on the road this week. The No. 5 seed in Class B North, Mt. Blue will travel to Fairfield to play No. 4 Lawrence (4-4). It will be a rematch of a Week 1 matchup, which the Cougars won 34-13 in Farmington.

• • •

Skowhegan was already guaranteed a spot in the Class B North playoffs. But after its dramatic come-from-behind victory over Mt. Blue at Clark Field last week, the Indians (5-3) are set up in several ways.

The victory locked up the No. 1 seed, meaning the Indians will have a bye week entering the postseason. Furthermore, the victory gave some Indians some momentum, which can carry a team for two weeks.

“Especially after last week, we were feeling a little bit down after (losing 44-26 to Lawrence),” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “We really needed this momentum shift to feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs and have that right mindset as we prepare. We get a week off to do it, hopefully get some guys healthy. We’re feeling good about ourselves, it’s a good place to be.”

The rest will certainly benefit some key players, including running back/ kicker Zeb Tibbetts, who had to be removed from the game against the Cougars. Without a kicker, Skowhegan was forced to go for the two-point conversion after Colby Miller’s 75-yard kickoff return for a score that cut the Cougar’s lead to 28-27. It ended up working out for Skowhegan, as quarterback Marcus Christopher scored on a keeper for the 29-28 lead.

“This (win) gives us some positives going into the playoffs,” Christopher said. “It gives us a big win, so we can get next week off and come back ready for the semifinals.”

Christopher was also beaten up in that contest, as he was sacked eight times and was knocked down several other times.

• • •

Around the state: Four teams made it through the regular season undefeated: Thornton Academy (Class A), Kennebunk (Class B), Foxcroft Academy (Class D) and Wells (Class D)… Five of the six playoffs teams from the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs last season made it again this year. Only Messalonskee failed to return to the postseason, with Mt. Blue earning a spot for the first time since 2015… The longest active win streak in the state belongs to Wells. The Warriors have won 24 straight games. Wells’ last loss came Oct. 21, 2016, against Cape Elizabeth.

Staff writer Dave Dyer contributed to this report.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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